Presented as the keynote for the 2018 Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium "American Literary History and Economics in the New Gilded Age" on Friday, October 5, 2018 in Meier Hall on the Elmira College Campus.
Why does American history seem to swing like a pendulum between eras of relative equality and eras of extreme inequality? Can we recover from the second Gilded Age? New answers to these questions are coming from an unexpected source - Darwin's theory of evolution, which has recently been extended to account for cultural change in addition to genetic change. David Sloan Wilson will provide an overview of these new developments and show how historians and literary scholars can play a central role in the study of human cultural evolution.
Davi Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology & Anthropology at Binghamton University, as well as co-founder and President fo the Evolution Institute, co-founder of Evonomics.com, and editor-in-chief of This View of Life magazine. His books, many of which include interdisciplinary engagement with economics history and theory, include Darwin's Cathedral (U.Chicago, 2002), Evolution for Everyone (Delacorte, 2007), The Neighborhood Project (Little Brown & Co., 2011), and Does Altruism Exist? (Yale, 2015). He is also co-editor of The Literary Animal (Northwestern, 2005) with Jonathan Gottschall and Pathological Altruism (Oxford, 2011).